Transformation… Week 05


a Moment for Wisdom…



a Moment for…


 “Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s OK to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing. 

Anne Sullivan


Fall down seven times; stand up eight.”

African Proverb




Personal Wisdom:


What are the characteristics of “failure” to you? 


What does “failure” mean?


Are there any people that you consider “failures”?


Societal Wisdom:


What are the characteristics of a “failed state”?  A failed society?


Are there regions or areas of the United States that have “failed”?  What are they?  What are their characteristics?



a Moment with Sharif…




Why, in the “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave”, are so many of us afraid?  This time, we focus on the fear of failure.


I can remember the time that I was afraid of failure and rejection.  I studied hard, not because I gave a rip about the subject, but because I was afraid of getting a “bad” grade.  I acted to please others – not because I really cared about them, but because I was afraid of their rejection.


This comes from not having a firm idea of who we are as beings and our relationships with other beings.


These notions regarding the consequences of “failure” are so pervasive, and developed so early in our lives, we mistakenly believe that they are a part of “human nature”.No such thing.  They are no more a part of our “human nature” than any other bad idea – like the Sun revolving around the Earth, or people of African descent lacking souls, or the “natural” inferiority of women. 


Ask any successful person about failure.  Thomas Edison didn’t fall down seven times… he fell down thousands of times on his way to inventing the electric light bulb (an invention so ubiquitous, I’ll bet you don’t have to turn your head from this computer screen to see one).  When a reporter asked Edison how it felt to fail so many times, he replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.”  To Edison, “almost” meant another 1,000 attempts.  He only needed one success…


How many of us turn from our chosen paths at the first signs of failure?  Worse yet, how many of us don’t even START a project, for fear that it MIGHT fail, or it MIGHT meet with disapproval?


Another aspect of today’s quote is that “failure” is an integral part of “learning”.He or she who has not failed has not learned.  Some of these “learnings” are absolute: once you stick your hand in the fire, you “learn” that you should not do that again.  A very important lesson.  Other learnings are relative.  The violinist learns the combination of notes that do NOT produce harmony.


And (of course), failure and learning are related to PRACTICE.  The idea of practicing running is to train one’s body what to do when in a race.  The idea of practicing music is to train one’s fingers what to do when in a recital.  The idea of Commonway Praxis is training for what to do when you find yourself in a toxic society.







Transformation Exercises:


This week’s “Transformation” exercise: 


  1.  Divide a piece of paper into two columns.In Column A, make a list of your successes that were NOT preceded by failure.  Then, in Column B, make a second list, of successes that followed initial failures.
  •  What, if anything, is different about the two columns?
  • Which list was easiest for you to remember?
  • Do the items in one list seem more valuable than the other?



  1. Make a list of “successful” people – 10 to 15 people who personify YOUR idea of what “success” means.
  • What are the characteristics of people on your list?
  • How are you like those people?
  • How do you differ?

  1.  Make a list of people you consider to be “failures” – 5 to 10 people who personify YOUR idea of what “failure” means.
  •  What are the characteristics of people on your list?
  • How are you like those people?
  • How do you differ?

 Share your lists with someone else.  Ask them to write lists of their own.







All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.








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